Large white seagulls fly low over Brighton's pebble beach as the waves roll in. Locals and tourists alike relax on the shore eating fresh sardines and salad, or wander narrow streets lined with shops, pubs and restaurants. The scene stands in sharp contrast to the busy urban life of London, not far to the north.
King George IV brought a royal pedigree to Brighton, building monuments to encourage members of high society to visit this seaside resort. His Royal Pavilion, a creation of Indo-Chinese inspiration, remains a landmark in the middle of town to this day, housing some of the finest art collections and examples of chinoiserie style in Britain. The city became a popular destination for "the wrong kind of people" - including homosexuals and hedonists, escaping the prying eyes of London society during the reign of Victoria, for a "dirty weekend." The prudish queen didn't like the place at all and might have demolished the Pavilion if the city hadn't bought it from her. Today it's a favorite site for same-sex marriages, and picnics on the lawns.
The city has a big, boisterous and growing gay community. The pride parade and festival here, one of the largest in Britain, is held in late summer and attracts huge, diverse crowds for the non-stop parties all over town.
From London you can reach Brighton by Southern Railway from Victoria Station, in about an hour, for around $50 round-trip ("return"). The train takes a route through some pretty English countryside. There’s also good hourly bus service on the coaches of National Express from Victoria Coach Station, for half the price or better, but taking twice as long. From Gatwick Airport the bus takes only 45 minutes, and there's service from Heathrow too.
This is a town meant for strolling, so the best way to get around is your own two feet. Many people also rent a bicycle for the day. For local bus services see Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach
During summer months the Volks Railway, the world's oldest electric railway, runs trains between Brighton Pier and the Marina, along the seafront. The gay-popular local nude beach can be reached this way.
Kemptown, once nicknamed “Tramptown” for its down-at-heel feel, is now full of lovingly restored Regency-era homes. No surprise that this is the heart of the gay community.
What to do
Take a stroll down St James's Street and the Old Steine, the heart of the gay district. For a taste of classic fish-and-chips, arcade games and thrill rides, make like a tourist and head for the Brighton Pier.
Welcoming gay and bisexual men from anywhere, including visitors from abroad; GMen Brighton provides weekend get-away social activities and the chance to acquire diverse new skills in cocktail making, a comedy workshop, cooking, French or Spanish conversation, kayaking, creative photography, Tai Chi, and wine tasting -- among others.
See our events listings for the Brighton Festival, each May, with top-notch dance, theater, and music performances; and Pride Brighton & Hove in July and early August, a weeklong extravaganza with parade, festival, fun fair, and tents of various groups and diverse musical tastes. There's even a dog show.
Currency and Money
The United Kingdom uses the British pound, rather than the euro.
Media and resources
GScene is the local gay magazine with news and opinion actually worth reading, and the best guide to what's gay and happening on any given day or night in Brighton. They also cover the nearby cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. Download a pdf of the latest issue from their website.
Local gay websites include: Gay Brighton & Hove and Real Brighton. Other general public sites Brighton & Hove Tourism and What's On Brighton have listings for theater, comedy clubs, film, pubs, and such. Visit Brighton is the official city tourist information guide.
See Brighton's Boho Paradise by David Walbourg from a back issue of Xtra Magazine, our Toronto sister publication.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Brighton map & listings pages.
Ambassador Hotel (22 New Steine), 4-star, gay-owned B&B, 24 en-suite rooms at the heart of everything, beach to bars; traditional English breakfast and veggie/vegan options.
Amsterdam Hotel (11 Marine Parade), hotel, restaurant, bar, massage services. Sea-facing bar and terrace, busy from lunchtime on, ample sauna facilities with guys from around the world. Wide selection, large rooms for all budgets, ensuite walk-in showers. Front room views of Pier, beach and sea.
Gulliver's Hotel (12a New Steine Road), an Automobile Association-selected hotel, has clean and comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi.
Kipps Brighton (76 Grande Parade) has front rooms with views of the Pavilion. Town center and seafront are steps away. Service is laid-back and friendly at fully-licensed lounge and bar, plus there's free Wi-Fi and digital TV.
Legends Hotel, Bar & Club (31 Marine Parade) complex at gay Brighton center. Many rooms, some with sea views, huge bar. Sunday cabaret, lavish Basement Club disco, open to 4am. Food daytime inside or in the sea air with nice views. Full breakfast, until 10:30am, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, fried tomatoes and mushrooms.
MyHotel (17 Jubilee St), boutique hotel for cheeky weekend retreats. Opulent artist-created studios, overall sexy design following principles of feng shui, free flowing lines, curved walls, ublime colors. Cocktail bar, meeting rooms, library, jinja therapists for facials, body treatments, massages.
New Steine Hotel (10 New Steine) is a 50-meter hop from the beachfront with friendly service. Their restaurant, the New Steine Bistro, opens Tuesdays through Saturdays, 6 until 11pm.
Queens Hotel (1 Kings Road) overlooks Brighton Pier, promenade amusements, cafes, and attractions. Gym, pool, sauna, sun bed among amenities. Bright, spacious rooms, some panoramic coastal views. Buffet breakfast of muesli and fruit as well as classic English fare. Free wi-fi or computers, gay weddings and civil ceremonies.
Strawberry Fields Hotel (6 New Steine), gorgeous boutique hotel, sea views, short stroll to Pier. Hot bacon rolls, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels among breakfast items delivered to the room with morning coffee or tea.
See our map & listings/lodgings tab for over two dozen area hotels, hostels and B&Bs that cater to the gay community, with locations and website links for each.
Amsterdam (11 Marine Parade) light bites to three course meals, including vegetarian dishes. Traditional British Sunday Roasts: sirloin of beef, leg of lamb, pork or chicken, Yorkshire Pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables, extensive wine list.
L'Eglise Restaurant (196 Church Rd, Hove) traditional French cuisine, monthly wine tasting dinner of five courses. Big liqueurs selection to finish off with the coffee.
Fisherman's Rest (123 King’s Road) gay-friendly pub and restaurant with old-fashioned steak and ale pie; big Sunday cabaret lunch with five courses from 4pm, cabaret from 7. Book ahead.
New Steine Hotel Bistro (10 New Steine) breakfast buffet, fresh pastries, meat and cheese, vegetarian or vegan options. All-day snack menu with Tarte du Jour to steak and chips. Evening French cuisine and British standards, art exhibitions, mellow music.
Pomegranate (10 Manchester St), at gay central, near St. James's St, Kurdish cuisine and romantic fireplace. Wine list of Australian, Chilean, French, and Spanish vineyards, plus Champagne. Note the walnut stuffed figs.
Royal Pavilion Tearoom (Royal Pavilion) sunny balcony overlooking the gardens, traditional Regency English dishes or snacks, local wine, beer and cider, tea, puddings and cakes.
Sawadee Bright (87 St James's St) Thai restaurant lunch and dinner near Brighton Pier. Stir fries using local ingredients with Thai herbs; grilled beef or chicken in spicy sauces; also seafood and vegetarian platters.
Terre à Terre (71 East St), restaurant to make one think again about vegetarian cuisine: intense flavors, sublime textures and combinations of ingredients that few have had the imagination or daring to put together before now.
Townhouse Kemptown (81 St James's St), breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine list, Sunday roasts; nightly live music piano bar, and lounge.
For more local cafes, pubs and restaurants, each with locations and website links, see our map & listings section.
One of the first cities in Britain to allow 24-hour bar licenses, Brighton rarely sleeps, and many clubs remain open until everyone leaves. On weekends in the clubs that means just in time for a late breakfast.
A Bar (11 Marine Parade) modern, full bar in hotel/restaurant, hassle-free atmosphere, big screen music videos, free WiFi access, karaoke & quiz nights.
Bedford Tavern (30 Western St), "country pub at the heart of the city," piano bingo, Kamikaze Karaoke, poker nights, old-time music. Sunday food includes roasts and veggie options.
Bulldog (31 St James St) open every night of the year, goes day and night on weekends and holidays with dancing nightly. Mostly men, all welcome, cabaret, Kruz nights, karaoke and shows.
Camelford Arms (30 Camelford Street) pub to relax, read the paper, play cards, play Monoply or Cluedo or for sitting back to watch. Dog-friendly, Bear-friendly, especially Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday Quiz, food served daily, Sunday roasts, free WiFi.
Charles Street (8 Marine Parade) classy seafront warm-up bar and restaurant, light bites or three course meals, inside or terrace seating; drag, cabaret, comedy and theatrics. Popular Sunday lunches with huge portions. Upstairs Envy nightclub dancing from 10pm.
Church Street (112 Church Street), pre/post theater or concert drinks or food all day, Sunday lunch specials, patio beer garden.
Doctor Brightons (16 Kings Rd) cosy sea-side bar, pool table, video jukebox, comfy sofas, good music. Exotic cocktail creations for pre-clubbing weekend crowds.
Envy (8 Marine Parade), energetic gay young crowd upstairs at Charles Street, big Monday Night Madness Brighton tradition of cheap drinks, pop, trash, a bit of Indie, and all the music classics.
Funky Fish Club (19-23 Marine Parade, New Madeira Hotel), small but lively Friday/Saturday dance club, Funky music of 4 decades, good sound system, bar with terrace, Saturday drag emcee with male strippers.
HoneyClub (214 Kings Road Arches), gay-friendly dance nights, top name DJs; special events such as Wild Fruit and Rebel after-parties (sometimes at clubs Digital, The Haunt, Life, or Coalition).
Latest Music Bar (17-17 Manchester St), restaurant/bar, live music shows, cabaret basement, special nights include Frockabilly a monthly queer-run, straight-friendly, 1950s-theme night.
Legends Bar/ Basement Club (31-34 Marine Parade) sea views from both the bar and the sun terrace, and nightly clubbing until 4am on weekends, where tourists and locals mix in a lively way on their modern dance-floor.
Marine Tavern (13 Broad St) cosy traditional pub at heart of the gay community, with friendly staff and customers, poplular with bears, nightly events include Tuesday Quiz, Sunday Sausages.
Mucky Duck (7-9 Manchester St), former Star Inn, traditional pub food, drinks, live music, karaoke, art, mixed gay/straight crowd, local art, Sunday roasts.
Poison Ivy (129 St James St), karaoke nightly, drag diva emcees, young crowd, cheap drinks, former Candy Bar.
Proud Cabaret Brighton (83 St. Georges Road) former Hanbury Ballroom, the "Jewel of Kemp Town" returns as a retro supper club; 3 course menu, cabaret and burlesque performances, diverse club nights.
Queens Arms (7 George St), daytime chill-out spot, WiFi, sandwiches, baked potatoes; lively evening cabaret and comedy club with outrageous Kitty Litter, karaoke with Betty Swolocks, talent shows for cash prizes. Mixed crowd of all types and many ages.
Revenge (32 Old Steine), long-running club near Brighton Pier. Dancing all night, cabaret and strip shows. Entry or line-jumpiing tickets online for Kinky Dangerous, Girls-On-Top, Lolipop and Emergency Room party nights. Next door is their Bar Revenge (7 Marine Parade) warm-up for the club lounge.
Subline (129 St James St, basement; enter from Steine), men's membership cruise club, leather/fetish, rubber, skins, pinball machine, back rooms.
VaVavoom (31 Old Steine) next to Club Revenge, trendy young crowd, pre-club warm-up or after bar drinks with late bar every night of the week.
The Zone (33 St James's St) right by the Bulldog bar, older crowd, cabaret and karaoke nights.
See the maps & llstings tab for locations and website links to all businesses on this page.
Brighton Sauna (75 Grand Parade) men-only, 20-man sauna, 15-man Jacuzzi, cinema, cabins, steam, watersports, dark room, slings, masseurs, hot food snacks, free internet, fetish and naked nights.
TBS2 Sauna (86 Denmark Villas) the former Denmark, small, cosy, friendly sauna near the Hove railway station, open 7 days a week; regular men-only naked, leather-rubber-fetish, and bears nights; Sundays women only. Massage, bar and coffee shop.
Shopping and services
Cardome (47a St James St), huge range of cards and artwork, modern to classic, humorous to rude. for every occasion. Aso items strange and surreal, books, gifts, comedy wrappings, aromas, figurines, and limited-edition art pieces.
Prowler (112 St James St) all-round gay lifestyle shopping with books, fashionwear, underwear, swimwear, rainbow goods, eroltic and gay cinema DVDs, sexy calenders, magazines, aromas, sex toys and more.
Tube Station Tanning (47 St. James St) for a tan whatever the weather, next to Cardome. They offer early-bird discounts for visitors between 9:30 and 10:30am, Monday through Saturday.